Commentary: Medicare clinic idea deserves support

It almost sounds too good to be true. A Medicare-only Anchorage clinic spearheaded by retired cardiologist Dr. George Rhyneer would cost $1.7 million to get up and running, could be open before the end of 2010 and provide primary care to 2,000 older Alaskans every month.

This could be very good news for thousands of Medicare patients suffering a doctor shortage, long waits for appointments at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center or last-resort trips to the emergency room.

That could be very good news for thousands more Medicare patients expected to call Anchorage and the Mat-Su home by 2014, when the population of those 65 and older is expected to rise from 26,000 to 36,000.

Rhyneer and backers of the proposed clinic have raised $200,000 in private donations and are seeking $500,000 in federal funds and about $1 million in state money to start the clinic. They expect it to be self-sustaining after startup costs.

They won't build from scratch but aim to find office space suitable to refit for medical practice somewhere between Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital. Staff would number seven, with an experienced doctor, nurse practitioners or physicians assistants, receptionist and billing clerk.

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